Rosy Cole

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Rosy Cole was born and educated in the Shires of England. Her writing career started in her teens. Four apprentice works eventually led to publication of two novels. Life intervened, but she returned to authorship in 2004. She has worked as a Press Officer and Publisher's Reader. Among widespread interests, she lists history, opera, musicals, jazz, the arts, drawing and painting, gemmology, homoeopathy and alternative therapies. Theology also is an abiding interest. As a singer, she's performed alongside many renowned musicians and has run a music agency which specialised in themed 'words-and-music' programmes, bringing her two greatest passions together. Rosy's first book of poetry, THE TWAIN, Poems of Earth and Ether, was published in April 2012, National Poetry Month, and two other collections are in preparation. As well as the First and Second Books in the Berkeley Series, she has written several other historical titles and one of literary fiction. She is currently working on the Third Book in the Berkeley Series. All her books are now published under the New Eve imprint. Rosy lives in West Sussex with her son, Chris, and her Springador, Jack, who keeps a firm paw on the work-and-walkies schedule!

The Surly Bonds

 

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'Go West, young man.'

He had read Westward Ho! as a child. But he'd never been one to ply with the tide, since being caned for scrumping in the vicar's orchard when his brother was the culprit.

There were dark rumblings in Europe, though Mr Chamberlain had assured everyone that war had been averted. Samuel watched his old school companions go, one by one; Horniman, his rival in Latin class, Tom Osborne, the baker's boy who had not a care in the world beyond the equilibrium of the breadbasket strapped to his handlebars. They all went, conscripts mostly; some volunteering.

Then his brother signed up to the RAF and started soaring the ether. Edward, who had let Samuel take the rap for stealing pears, was suddenly a hero and their father's pride.

The old man had been gassed in the trenches at Ypres and decorated for bravery. His belly still suffered the sting of sulphur when he consumed any but the blandest food. He'd seen terrible things, heard blasts that drowned out the Munch scream for the whole of Eternity. He was buttoned up about that, didn't say much, but when the miasma of depression filled his nostrils, he would retreat for a while. A slovenly sock, an untied shoelace, rhubarb crumble laced with too little sweetener, could trigger a tirade. They watched their mother choke on humility. 

Sam could see no sense in mindless violence, with the aftermath ricocheting from one generation to the next. Besides, the teachings of the New Testament, which he had taken to heart, were on his side. His father might bleat about sacrifice and the defence of the homeland, but where was the victory in violence and bloodshed and endlessly spinning grief? While it might be possible to hold polar opposite views with integrity, they couldn't be found in one and same person. Yet it was a shameful thing to have a 'conchy' in the family. That Sam was summoned to a tribunal and called upon to defend his beliefs stoutly did not mend matters at home.

With a brilliant, though incomplete, academic record, Sam took himself off to seek sanctuary with an aunt some miles away, while he found work congenial to his engineer's brain in a local office. Within a year, the chance came for promotion to the firm's outpost in the Midlands and, upon warm recommendation, Sam applied and was transferred. Here was the chance of a fresh start. A whole new horizon!

 

 

One sun-shy September afternoon, with the leaves flickering down, he left his ancestral pastures behind and the quiet village in ochre Ham Stone, with hollyhocks and rose trellises and a big Elizabethan mansion, and boarded a train bound for the Midlands, wheels turning punctually and familiar scenes slipping backwards into the past.

 

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He knew he had to make good. If his peers were ready to die for the nation, Sam had to offer something doubly constructive.

It wasn't difficult to prove himself in his chosen career, but the war dragged on and soldiers were dying in their thousands. When Edward was captured and imprisoned in Stalag Luft III, Sam's conviction intensified that 'keeping the home fires burning' wasn't enough.

Soon, he had fallen in with a crowd of young people at a church in town. Among them was Zinnie, everyone's idea of Prosper Mérimée's Carmen. She was a recent convert, still flushed with an evangelical zeal Sam could only admire. How pale his own witness seemed beside it! She was the antithesis of little Constance, the demure damsel who went into service at Tintinhull, his abandoned sweetheart back home.

With Sam's own handsome looks in the Latin style, he caught Zinnie's eye. He wasn't local and had a touch of the exotic with his regional burr. She thought she should enlist him in her campaign for the Lord.

Zinnie was scathing of the rampant evil in the world, to which she was unduly sensitive, and scornful of moral frailty, but mellowed after a session of raucous choruses when she felt part of the human race. It took Sam a long while to figure out that he had formed a connection with her which onlookers in those days regarded as courting. It behoved him to do the honourable thing that her reputation (and his own) should not be compromised. He was a man with a strong sense of duty and rigorously stuck to his word throughout his life. The turn of events must have been the hand of God.

Within weeks of this epiphany, he applied for a special licence and stood at the altar beside Zinnie and said: 'I do' and 'I will' and meant it. This was his mission in life. No one promised it would be easy. The war had ended and New Jerusalem was in focus again. Everywhere couples were marrying and setting out to establish a peaceful and prosperous future.

It turned out that Zinnie's passion was more about Zinnie than anyone else and that her hotline to God was no joke. She knew what ought to be thought, said, felt and acted in the service of Zinnie. It was her due. Those who fell short were on their way to Hell, they could be sure of that. Ailments of body and mind kept her in control and secluded her from an accusing community. She was blessed with a generous quota of domestic skills which she struggled to apply in unspoken penance. When their daughter was born it seemed that a more equable disposition might prevail. But motherhood soon became a new weapon in her arsenal for gaining ascendancy over father and child.

Sam was so bound into the illusion of her martyrdom, that he often blamed himself for failing to promote her happiness, despite a long working day and an hour of cycling each way to spare the budget. The nation was all but bankrupt and no one in the village had a vehicle, except Hare at the post office who ran a taxi service to the better off on high days and holidays.

Sam's toughest assignment was their daughter's wedding. Guests remarked how miserable he looked in the photos. They didn't know he was going to have to tame the tiger alone, maybe for another thirty or forty years. There would be no tacit ally. He never saw his daughter alone after that, lest there be jealous reprisals and fearsome scenes that might wreak irreversible havoc. Those who have never endured this kind of tyranny should not imagine there's an option to walk away. Mortals like Zinnie have a genius for wringing pity from those around them since they find it impossible to reveal their inner landscape and contain its torments alone.

Sam bore it all until his health began seriously to break down. At this point, by some strange quirk of fate, Constance had traced him and they started writing to one another. Then her letters ceased. The day he heard that she had died was devastating. "You could be looking at another ten years with any luck," said his doctor, "if you have a bypass." Sam had lived long enough to know that for him there was no bypassing grief and anguish and loss of the Promised Land in this life. 

One frosty January morning, just before his seventy-fifth birthday and four months short of their Golden Wedding, Sam drove his car to the dealership for a service. It was a major inspection and would take a couple of hours or so. He was some distance from home and, instead of returning, ambled down to the old railway station where steam trains had been brought back into commission by enthusiasts who had formed a Trust.

It was just as it had been in the days long ago, when he had forsaken the groves of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table to carve out his destiny. He could admire those engines, fully restored to pristine glory and running again. He knew all about wheels turning, pistons and gauges and machinery running on prescribed lines. He hadn't fought on the battlefield, or on the sea, or in the air, but he had stuck to his guns and had held the fort for society. By the grace of God, he had contained the tide of consequences and held it all together. He had expected no one else to shoulder his responsibilities. 

It was a nostalgic interlude. He was hardly aware of the cold seeping into his bones. When he got back to the garage, he was in high spirits, laughing and joking with the salespeople as he took possession of the keys and walked out to his car. He engaged reverse gear, moved backwards, but the vehicle didn't stop... till it crashed. A customer of the garage, who happened to be a doctor, ran out on to the forecourt. "There's no sign of life," he said. "He would have died before impact. He was actually smiling, as though he'd run into a long lost friend."

Sam had hit a stone wall. His last. Only this time, he had demolished it.

 

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High Flight

 

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, 

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; 

Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds - 

and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of - 

wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence. 

Hovering there I've chased the shouting wind along 

and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long delirious burning blue 

I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace, 

where never lark, or even eagle, flew; 

and, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod 

the high untrespassed sanctity of space, 

put out my hand and touched the face of God.

 

John Gillespie Magee, Jr

Copyright

© Copyright Rosy Cole 2009 and 2015

Recent Comments
Katherine Gregor
What a heartbreaking story! Have you just written it or is it from an existing collection?
Sunday, 10 May 2015 17:01
Rosy Cole
I've had this knocking around in my old files for about six years, Katia. I don't generally write stories, never having been sure,... Read More
Monday, 11 May 2015 14:28
Stephen Evans
One of the local TV stations used to us that poem as a nightly signoff, back when stations signed off. Both pieces are evocative.... Read More
Sunday, 10 May 2015 20:03
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8 Comments

Sceptred Isle

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Merely pausing over the deep blue Atlantic on Google Earth is enough make me gulp for air. That drowning space, cleaver of continents, can inspire a dreadful awe in members of maritime families who have lost their kin to the waves in war and peace-time. Nor does it have to be in unduly dramatic circumstances. My youthful uncle lost his life in The Solent when he dived from the deck of HMS Acheron in a bid to rescue a shipmate who had fallen overboard. There is no record of his burial. The body was never recovered. It was 1940, just over a year into WWII. 

We are a nation of seafarers – it is in our plasma – an island people colonised at various stages of history by other seafarers, but never conquered by Napoleon Bonaparte who feared the 'wooden walls' of our naval barricades.

When I view a map of Britain, spread out like a spatchcock chicken, I muse on the  magical diversity of landscape and customs and its historic ethnicity, its coast circled at various times by Viking invaders from Norway and Denmark who tamed it with their agricultural know-how. Then there were the Roman legions who laid straight roads, avenued with trees to keep their troops cool on the march (spot the Mediterranean optimism!) and their mosaicked villas and cypress gardens dedicated to wholesale well-being. I think of their vocabulary foursquare as their architecture and the imperialism that preferred not to disrupt the tenor of life in the hostage nation. 

All this, before the Normans overran these islands in 1066 and taught us the art of cuisine and chivalry, assimilating with all the fine nuance of their mother tongue.

On the left flank of the map lies the mythical west, where ancient kings still roam the twilight mists and castles perch on promontories, telling of yore. Saints stir the dust of medieval churches and, if you are very still, you may catch the sprites' chorus in forest streams. The watered mountains and meadows are shamrock green and exuberant tides flay the shores with glistening spume. Rock pools silently teem with micro worlds. Like layered torte, the granite striations are imaged on the pages of Charles Kingsley stories, and sea-birds breed in the sky-scraping crevices. There are bays and sequestered coves in places along the whole length of the coast where the water is as turquoise as the Aegean and where the violet rhodora blooms well before spring. The vast blue yonder is all ocean, beguiling the curious and the fugitive to discover new worlds. 

The side to the east harbours well-glazed wool churches, big as small cathedrals, where the open light breaks over their altars with a pride in prosperity that founded the nation's wealth and gave its Lord Chancellor somewhere to rest his frame in the Upper House. Orchards and weatherboards give way to busy docks and august monuments, rolling pastures and Fens drained by Huguenots who brought their farming, weaving, silversmithing and legal skills. From the air, the earth intersected by glittering watercourses, looks a bit like cloisonné work. The coast lies open to commerce with Scandinavia and the Low Countries under clouds tagging towards the Urals and back. The North Sea is fickle and blue, an illusory transfer of clear skies on waves of industrial taupe.

And, as I stand on the Isle of Wight and face a ghostly meridian that becomes the Pennine backbone of the country, I think about those ancestors who thought it was worth defending and wonder where exactly it was that John Cornelius Pitt was engulfed by eternity.

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Copyright

© Copyright Rosy Cole 2015

Recent Comments
Barbara Froman
What a beautiful memorial, Rosy. It conveys all the aroma and allure of great bodies of water. I suppose it's appropriate, as Moth... Read More
Thursday, 30 April 2015 20:51
Rosy Cole
How interesting about your Mom, Barb, and I am touched by the kind things you say. Thank you. I seem to remember that you spent s... Read More
Friday, 01 May 2015 16:37
Barbara Froman
I find what is going on in Hungary now, their turn to the right, both sad and frightening. We were there from early February to ea... Read More
Saturday, 02 May 2015 19:51
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10 Comments

#amformatting

 

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The pilcrow is a cryptic beast

With character upright

A sentinel whose measured strides

Suggest a blessed foresight.

 

Observe him well and you will see

How firm is his embrace

Despatching with a guardian's foil

That ghostly random space.

 

It's plain his purpose justifies

A presence in the frame

For words are apt to mutiny

And stake a wasteland claim.

 

So love your friendly pilcrow

Forget his shoulders gnarled

His shepherding will bind and keep

Your sentences corralled.

 

Copyright

© Copyright Rosy Cole 2011 and 2015

Recent Comments
Stephen Evans
I never knew it had a name!
Saturday, 18 April 2015 00:36
Katherine Gregor
Love it!
Saturday, 18 April 2015 09:35
Anonymous
Ah, Wikipedia does have it. And I feel stupid. As for anybody else who's wondering -- look it up! That's what I had to do. Good p... Read More
Tuesday, 21 April 2015 02:57
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5 Comments

A Stepping Stone

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For Easter, a short extract from my first litfic novel, published in 1980, entitled NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM. (Re-issue  2016.)

 

After a while, I emerged from that winter solstice of the spirit, entombed by dark days, as out of a long, long dream. It was far worse than anything yet endured. I had not known what it would cost to see things for what they were worth. I only wanted to sleep, forget. The very daylight impinging on the room each morning brought a flood of dread. Another day. Another battle for survival. Nothing could be taken for granted. The fastening of buttons, the shaking of quilts, loomed insurmountably ahead, an art to be learnt all over again. I was bound by a torpor wound round and round like bandages from which I had neither the strength nor the will to break free. “You must try to pull yourself together,” Jude insisted. “Get out more.”

Then one morning, I woke to the epiphany of sunrise, watched its arc widen over the rim of the howe and turn the loch to liquid fire. As it was slowly delivered of the earth, I felt I was being reborn. The stone was rolling away. The sun was round and pure as optimism. Independent. Made whole. The tears long imprisoned behind my eyes fell copiously. This was how Lazarus must have felt when he came back to the land of the living.

It was all over then, death, already behind me. And what was it but a nightmare banished at dawn? Or perhaps the draught moaning through a warped lintel against which you might turn up your collar. It wasn’t an event, yet you saw its effects, felt them. Death was a vicarious thing, a term used when others could no longer be seen.  

 

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Wishing you a Joyful Easter Season

 

Copyright

© Copyright Rosy Cole 1980, 2008, 2015

Recent Comments
Katherine Gregor
Beautifully written piece, Rosy.
Monday, 06 April 2015 09:01
Rosy Cole
Thanks, Katia, for reading and for the comment. Truly appreciated.
Monday, 06 April 2015 11:50
1944 Hits
2 Comments

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Latest Comments

Chris Change only ever happens forever
22 January 2020
Beautifully written...change, the one thing that is constant for all of us...
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13 January 2020
Beautifully said, Rosy. Cheers to you. X
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Thank you! It was! Glad you enjoyed! :-)
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Thanks, Stephen. And a fabulous 2020 to you.
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Stunning - what a wonderful p;lace to celebrate Christmas.